Threatened species get a comedic facelift from the Marine Conservation Society, giving little-known creatures a voice from the deep

Everyday drama stories from our oceans help highlight the need for Marine Conservation Zones in England

A common skate with a below average love life and who is anything but common; a spiny lobster who is no oil painting; and a trembling sea mat, an animal that looks like a plant that’s only found in one place in England.

All are brought to life in a series of illustrations being used by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) to highlight the real need for better protection of English seas.

MCS has selected five species that live in English waters to be given a cartoon makeover by artist Wayne Harris from Cardifff, as ambassadors for the charity’s 127 marine conservation zone campaign.

Meet Kat Skater (image supplied), the first of the characters to explain why English seas need protecting, and whose story is being brought to life with artistic licence.

Kat represents a species that was once common, but is now classified as critically endangered. Never one to worry about her size (common skate, Dipturus batis can grow to eight feet long and weigh 100kg), she’s a lively, friendly fish who is concerned that her home – her fragile seabed habitat – is under threat, and that she finds it hard to find a mate amongst the decreasing “pool” on offer to her.

MCS hopes the life stories, with a twist, of the common skate, the giant goby, the spiny lobster, the trembling sea mat and the ocean quahog will make the issue more accessible, galvanizing support for 127 Marine Conservation Zones (MCZ) in English seas by highlighting the very real need to protect our seas and marine life after decades of destruction.

MCZs are ways of ensuring healthy, productive seas for everyone because they control activities that are damaging for marine wildlife all around our shores.

“With a public consultation due to be launched this December asking people to provide their views on the 127 proposed sites that they would like to see protected, we think it’s important to bring to life creatures some people don’t realise exist, and may never have the chance to see in their lifetime.

“The truth is that these, and many others, continue to be threatened without better protection of English seas,” says Dr Jean-Luc Solandt, MCS Biodiversity Policy Officer.

“Our seas are under enormous pressure right now.

“The collateral damage caused by seabed fishing over vast tracts of our seas has caused incredible modification of natural seabed habitats over generations.

“The selection of up to 30% of UK seas within a network of MCZs could secure the future health of our English seas for generations to come.

“We want more members of the public to become as familiar with their local Marine Conservation Zones, as they are their local woodland and open spaces and support our campaign to protect them”, says Dr Solandt.

Led by Kat the Common Skate – who’s anything but common – MCS will be introducing its fab five to its web visitors, supporters and social media followers as it encourages the public to pledge support for 127 Marine Conservation Zones and get involved in the Government consultation next month.

Here’s Kat’s story:

“Common – you’re having a laugh! I’m about as common as talent on the X-Factor.

“I have quite literally been fished almost to extinction.

“It’s my wings you see, very sought after in posh restaurants and when you think I can grow to eight feet long – that’s a lot of servings.

“And being so big and loving the seabed as I do, I get dragged up by seabed fishing and then that’s me gone.

“With so few partners to date – there’s another issue – I’m only in the mood for love once every two years – so timing is everything.

“I’m on my way out I tell you.

“Protect the sea – protect me.”

Illustrator Wayne Harris says is was quite a challenge to bring to life creatures that he had never seen before: “It was fun to design characters for elusive, rare creatures I’d never even heard of - but knowing how endangered they are, I’m rooting for them now!”

Learn more about Marine Conservation Zones, pledge to support the campaign for 127 MCZs and find out why MCS believes the Government should designate all 127 at

For all the latest news see Thursday’s (December 6) Echo.